I grew up in a house which lived and breathed mathematics. I was quick at numbers and happy with algebra as it contained letters and therefore writing. But maths was not my strength so it was nigh on impossible to participate in the family past time.
We lived in Hayes, Middlesex, in a small house, in an ordinary street. But inside our house, extraordinary stuff was going on.
I went back to visit this year and in the photo you can just see my old bedroom window, jutting out above the lawn behind me.
Then there were all the people - men really - Einstein, Newton, Archimedes - lots of history there. So without really understanding the maths, I was growing up in a home which would give me a backdrop to feed my imagination, my vocabulary, my world view and my thirst for knowledge. This has never left me and I believe it has been a huge influence on my writing.
Fast forward to 2007. My younger brother, Louis Berk, a keen amateur photographer,( who was much better at maths than me) tells me that we should visit Bletchley Park before it gets properly discovered. Louis reckons our Dad was receiving decoded messages from Bletchley when he drove his radio car around France after D-Day. For quite sometime he was the only link between the British and American lines and got a letter from Eisenhower. I think he's wearing his driving gloves in the photo. He never took a driving test. Just got told to drive round the parade ground until he got the hang of it and then off he went.
One of Dad's hobbies was designing circuits and after he died we framed one and hung it on the wall. He drew the circuits with pencils he sharpened with a Stanley knife. He loved sharpening pencils and I always had a box full of fiercely sharpened pencils for school every day. No wonder I became a writer!
Louis was absolutely right. Bletchley Park was practically empty. We wandered around the huts which looked like the code breakers had literally just walked out the door and took photos. It was like stepping back seventy years. These photos were taken by Louis.
These photos were taken by me - you can see the difference!
I was inspired to write this post after seeing the film The Imitation Game about the work of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park, cracking the German code and shortening the WW2 by two years. They saved 14 million lives. But everyone who worked there stayed silent for decades. This film is about mathematics at its most extreme.
I loved every minute of it. I had learnt at my father's knee, you don't have to know about maths to be inspired by it. My imagination might not have solved black holes but it can soar as far as I need it to and beyond. Growing up in quantum mechanics - what gorgeous words - taught me how to think outside the box and that's what every writer needs.